Dave Seddon's verdict on PNE's victory over Huddersfield
The Royal Mail and UPS will be snapping-up Paul Gallagher's services at this rate, such was the quality of his delivery in Preston North End's victory over Huddersfield Town on Wednesday night.
His right boot set up the first two goals for Tom Clarke and Alex Baptiste, then he struck a wicked free-kick to score the third himself.
Restored to the side after a game out injured and two on the bench, Gallagher was in the mood to make an impact.
The win was PNE’s fourth on the bounce at Deepdale and stretched their unbeaten run in the past month to a sixth match.
It extended Huddersfield’s sorry run here, it now being 47 years since they recorded a win on Preston soil.
The visitors would surely not have begrudged North End the three points.
Simon Grayson’s men were bright and bubbly, playing the Terriers at their own pressing game and doing it effectively.
They pressed and harried high up the pitch, preventing Huddersfield from building from the back – an approach will took them to the top of the table until recently.
PNE had the momentum from the sixth minute onwards when Clarke found the net against his old club.
Gallagher’s pinpoint free-kick found him in the box and he did the rest with his head.
It was Clarke’s defensive colleague Baptiste who got his head to another Gallagher cross before the interval to double the lead.
Early in the second half, Gallagher made sure he got in on the scoring act, whipping over a free-kick from the left channel which flew in at the back post.
That is four points in the run of two games against the division’s top four.
There are two more league games to go in this testing sequence, but confidence will be up ahead of the trip to Norwich and the double leader with Newcastle.
Gallagher, Bailey Wright, Greg Cunningham and Ben Pringle had come into the starting XI, with Tommy Spurr, Paul Huntington, Chris Humphrey and John Welsh dropping out of the side which drew 2-2 at Brighton.
North End lined-up in a 4-4-2 system, with Gallagher on the right wing and Pringle playing down the left, Daniel Johnson and Ben Pearson the centre of midfield.
The contest was less than six minutes old when Preston took the lead, a foul on Callum Robinson seeing them awarded a free-kick down the left channel.
Gallagher whipped it into the box right-footed, CLARKE rising to guide a header past keeper Danny Ward from seven yards.
His celebrations were somewhat muted, the goal coming against the club he joined at eight and only left when he joined PNE in 2013.
Another Gallagher free-kick produced a chance for Jordan Hugill, the striker’s header tipped over the bar by Ward.
The resulting corner was only partly dealt with by the visitors’ defence, the ball falling to Clarke whose low drive was held at the second attempt by Ward as Hugill closed in.
Preston stretched the lead three minutes before the interval, winning a free-kick on the right hand side, five yards into their half.
Gallagher played it short to Johnson who returned it into Gallagher’s path further up the right channel.
He played a superb cross into the middle which BAPTISTE met six yards out with a powerful header into the roof of the net.
The visitors made a double change at the interval, Wells and former PNE loan striker Harry Bunn replacing Rajiv Van La Parra and Elias Kacunga.
They had the first chance of the second half, Payne’s free-kick clearing Maxwell’s bar by a few inches.
But it was PNE who surged further ahead in the 53rd minute, that man Gallagher at the heart of it again.
A foul on Hugill by Mark Hudson – one which earned the Town skipper a yellow card – gave the hosts a free-kick on the left-wing.
Gallagher kept it low, bending the ball into the middle and seeing it travel across the box and into the net at the far post.
The PNE players went straight over to congratulate Gallagher, a sign that no one else had got a touch on the ball on its way in.
Huddersfield pressed for a route back into the game, a Bunn shot beaten out by Maxwell, while Smith’s drive from distance touched off Clarke and went behind for a corner.
Maxwell got fingertips to take a Mooy shot past the far post.
Nine minutes from time, Huddersfield cut the deficit when Payne’s free-kick to the far post was headed into the middle by Christopher Schindler for WELLS to nod home.
There were no late scares despite the visitors seeing plenty of the ball, a good night’s work complete.